"A Clear Future for our River"

Harriet Alvis

The Bristol Avon – our Blue Planet

From where we are sat in the centre of Bristol or the more rural areas of the Bristol Avon Catchment, we rarely consider how our livelihoods and environments are linked to the sea. But in reality, our everyday actions have a direct impact on the health of our oceans, and a key part of this link is our rivers.

Rivers are a major pathway for plastic waste, washed into rivers from land during heavy rainfall events before flowing into the sea. In fact, it was reported that ‘just 10 rivers carry 90% of the plastic polluting our oceans’. This problem is not limited to developing countries and is ongoing in British waterways. Rivers are also suffering the same issues with plastic waste as we see on ocean awareness programmes such as the fantastic Blue Planet.

Plastic waste in the River Thames (Credit: Steve Taylor ARPS/Alamy Stock Photo)

Not only this, but toxins that run off from land, from urban and agricultural sources, bind to plastics in the ocean.  It is now well known that these various sized plastics are ingested by a range of organisms from plankton, to fish and birds and cetaceans. These toxins prefer to bind to fatty layers than plastics so enter the bodies of those that ingest them. In this way, these toxins enter the food chain and accumulate in larger animals such as the fish that we eat, posing a real threat to human health.

So how can you help?

Well, we have the potential to stop ocean waste at its source – by preventing waste from getting into our rivers and therefore into our oceans. BART run a number of riverbank litter picks throughout the year, so keep an eye on our volunteering page to get involved with these. We have also produced a guidance pack to help community groups to run their own litter picks, including risk assessments, blank posters and how to dispose of waste collected that we are happy to share (contact harriet@bristolavonriverstrust.org). There are some other really great organisations out there that are running litter picks in your area, such as local ‘Friends of’ groups and organisations such as Surfers Against Sewage. We are happy to help you find local groups you can get involved with, just get in touch! Or how about starting your own?

However, the best approach is to reduce the amount of single use plastics that we are using, for example using reusable cups, bags and other containers and buying from local shops such as greengrocers where you can purchase loose vegetables that are not in plastic packaging. We love the great Refill Bristol scheme started by City to Sea that is now going national and encourages business owners to put up stickers promoting that they are happy to fill up refillable bottles!

So, in summary, looking after our rivers is a fundamental step in protecting our oceans!

 

 

The Magnificent Marden Project continues to grow

BART have been working to improve the River Marden in Calne for a number of years now. To date, this has included in-stream habitat works, local engagement with presentations, education sessions (such as river dipping with the local Scouts Group) and Riverfly monitoring training.

Calne scouts out river dipping in the River Marden in 2016.

Whilst all of these activities have been occurring, we have been working in the background to get together a river Catchment plan for the River Marden by doing a series of walkover surveys and landowner/leaseholder meetings along the length of the river. As a result, we have a number of improvement areas that we will be searching for funding for over the coming years.

We are pleased to announce that a number of these improvement areas will be ticked off as we have secured funding from the Environment Agency’s Fisheries Improvement Fund, which comes from the sales of rod licences and goes directly into capital improvements in our rivers of angling interest – another great reason to make sure you have a rod licence before you go out fishing, the other one being bailiffs!

This project (which will hopefully be Phase 1 of several) will include the following actions:

  • The removal of two boulder weirs which are impounding the river, resulting in reduced flow diversity and silt accumulation on substrates.
  • Coppicing of a large section of overshaded, canopied river.
  • In-stream woody habitat works to increase flow, habitat and depth diversity in a straightened section of the river.
  • Initial fish passage investigations for two barriers to migration.

One of the impounding weirs

We will keep you updated as this project continues!

We would also like to thank the individuals who have recently reported local concerns regarding river health to us as well as the community groups who have recently met with us to discuss sourcing funds for future improvement options.

If you have any questions or would like to help out to improve the Magnificent Marden with either volunteer time or sourcing funding, please get in touch with BART Project Manager on harriet@bristolavonriverstrust.org

BART selected as Co-op local cause!

BART are really pleased to announce that we have been chosen as a Co-op local cause! Every time members shop at the Co-op, 1% of what you spend on selected own-brand products and services goes to the Co-op Local Community Fund. We will be receiving part of this to run our anti storm drain pollution Yellowfish Project.

Please could all members consider choosing us when they shop, and if you’re not a member, there are some great advantages! You can find out more about Co-op membership in-store or online at www.coop.co.uk/membership

Grass cuttings and water pollution

While we’ve been out on the river recently we’ve noticed many occurrences of people throwing their grass cuttings over their garden and into the river. Please help us to spread the message that this pollutes our rivers by sharing this poster… thank you!

Work begins to improve the Wellow Brook

So here we are in September, our busiest month of the year for in-stream habitat improvement works and it feels like just yesterday we were finishing up our works on the Bristol Frome at the end of February. How quickly has that Summer (or lack of it!) flown by!? We conduct most of our in-stream habitat work, which largely involves adding woody materials to rivers, before October to avoid the trout spawning season (October to March), where any disturbance of sediment may affect egg survival. By avoiding this season, we can be sure that our habitat work only has positive impacts on juvenile fish recruitment. This is different for coarse rivers whose ‘closed season’ is 15th March to 15th June inclusive.

We are extremely lucky to have received funding from multiple funders (HDH Wills, People’s Postcode Trust, the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership and the Environment Agency) to deliver habitat improvement works along a significant length of the Wellow Brook over 5 weeks. These improvements are taking place around the areas of Midsomer Norton, Stoney Littleton and Wellow.

Volunteers at work installing woody debris in the Wellow Brook

This woody debris work is happening for a variety of reasons along the brook, including any previous modifications to the channel (such as straightening, overwidening and artificial banksides), low fish numbers (as deduced from Environment Agency and BART electrofishing surveys) and as a follow on to our removal of 3 boulder weirs at the end of 2016. However, the general benefits are similar wherever these structures are placed and include:

  • Fish cover for juvenile fish, reducing predation by larger fish, birds and mammals, increasing recruitment rates and therefore population numbers.
  • The formation of shallow bays which act as warmer water nutrient traps and escape from faster flowing waters, providing essential food sources for juvenile fish and further increasing recruitment.
  • Acting as silt traps to reduce turbidity within the water column and reduce fish stress, therefore improving survival.
  • Increasing areas of shade within the river to mitigate for warmer waters (and therefore reduced oxygen content) from climate change.

An example of woody debris habitat creation from last years work on the River Marden, Calne.

These works simply replicate the processes and benefits that occur when a tree falls into the river, but in a way that ensures no unwanted erosion or enhanced flood risk. Over time, silt in the river will accumulate on the structures, they will vegetate and they will form part of the bankside in a more natural, meandering form than before the works. This method is much better than hard engineering works using man-made materials as it creates more diverse habitat, is more natural, requires less carbon dioxide to produce, is cheaper and provides an extra win of coppicing overshaded rivers.

We are also pleased to announce that we have been selected to go forward to the Tesco Bags of Help public vote, where Tesco customers around the Bath area will have the chance to vote to extend these improvements to the urban section of the Wellow Brook through Radstock. This will provide a crucial link to join up our habitat improvement works, which will result in further enhanced fish populations. More information here.

These works are part of our larger Wellow and Cam initiative which is taking a catchment approach to improving the length of the Wellow and Cam Brooks. Other upcoming elements to this initiative include fish passage investigations later in the year, landowner meetings and farmers lunches to discuss how we can work together to reduce diffuse pollution levels in the area.

We are very grateful to those people who have already volunteered with us on this project and those of you who have signed up to volunteer over the next 5 weeks. A massive thank you is also due to our funders HDH Wills, People’s Postcode Trust, the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership and the Environment Agency for funding these works!